Talent Distribution: the Big 12

This is day five of evaluating the upper-end talent in major conferences. So far we've covered the ACC,  the AAC, the Big East, and the Big Ten. Go to the first link (the ACC) to read up on methods and where the data comes from. There's also a graphic there that shows in very simple terms why landing top 100 recruits is probably more important than you think.

Now it's the Big 12, which stands out for a couple of reasons. First, Kansas has the most consensus top 100 recruits of any of the teams we've looked at so far. Second, the talent in the conference is (and has been) dominated by Kansas, which is much of the reason they've won nine Big 12 regular season titles in a row.

Regardless, here are how the top 100 recruits are spread out through the conference.

Kansas has 11 top 100 players on scholarship, which is just ridiculous. Last year Florida had the same amount. This year, the most we've seen is Duke and North Carolina who both have ten.

There's a big drop to the next tier of Baylor (6), Texas (5) and Oklahoma State (5). At the bottom end are Oklahoma with one, and Kansas State and Texas Tech who get shut out. It should also be noted that one of TCU's two have yet to qualify academically. This is important in light of a stat from last year. There were 18 high major programs who had zero or one consensus top 100 player on their roster, and of those 18 teams, only one had a winning conference record. Who was that team? Kansas State.

Drilling down to the 5*s and high 4*s (top 50 players), it looks like this.

Again, Kansas dominates. But here is where you can see some differences between KU and other top schools. Duke "only" has ten top 100 players, but nine of them are from the top 50. Kansas has six.

For the consensus 5*s, it looks like this.

Seven total players seems right in the wheelhouse of major conferences.The ACC has ten of these players, the Big Ten and AAC have six, while the Big East only has two.

Talent distribution: the Big 12

The first two conferences I looked at in terms of how the top talent was distributed were the ACC and the SEC. From the original article:

If you examine the rosters of NCAA Tournament champions they have a couple things in common. One, they’re filled with elite recruits. Two, they have multiple players who end up as 1st round picks in the NBA. Those two things are not always interchangeable. Not every elite recruit pans out. Not all 1st round picks were elite recruits. But it’s pretty darn close. Evaluating talent in basketball is easier than it is in other major sports. You could watch Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in high school (then, Michael Gilchrist) and see an NBA player. It’s hard to look at a high school quarterback and see anything more than NFL potential.

Of the 29 1st round picks in the 2012 NBA draft (one player was foreign and unevaluated) 24 (83%) were former consensus top-100 recruits. Twenty-two (76%) had been top-40 recruits.

This is the reason why I track where elite talent ends up. Those schools win titles.

Today, it’s the SEC. For a data source I use RSCI Hoops, which, if you aren’t familiar with this site, you should be. They take ESPN, Rivals, Scout, etc… rankings and combine them into one consensus ranking. Other sites have co-opted their methods (without citing them of course), but RSCI is the original. Run the Floor even creates some consensus rankings, but we use those as a stop-gap between RSCI updates. In the end, we defer to RSCI.

In the 10-team Big-12 there are 31 consensus top-100 basketball players. Here is how that talent is distributed:

Texas, Kansas and Baylor each have roughly half their rosters composed of consensus top-100 recruits. Of the conferences I’ve examined, only Florida, Duke and North Carolina have more top-100 recruits than Texas.

The Big-12 is clearly a top-heavy conference – as usual. This is no surprise considering Kansas has won (or tied) the conference in eight straight seasons. So will Texas or Baylor (or Oklahoma State for that matter) be able to end that streak? The Cowboys have four top-100 guys, Oklahoma and West Virginia have three each, and Iowa State has two. Kansas State, Texas Tech and TCU don’t have any, making the Big 12 the first conference with more than one team shut out of the top talent.

But, as noted above, the NBA draft was almost entirely comprised of top-40 recruits. We’ll back that out to 50 and see how it looks.

Here, there isn’t as much separation as there has been with the other conferences. Kansas has four, Texas has three, and Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma each have two. West Virginia enters the Big 12 with one.

Does the talent distribution change if we refine it down to just the consensus 5* top-25 players? Here’s that chart:

Still, it’s relatively balanced at the top. The problem is that there’s just not that much elite talent in the Big 12 this season. The SEC has 13 top-25 recruits, the ACC has 12, and the Big 12 has 6. Even accounting for fewer teams, that’s 40% below the other two conferences which I’ve looked at. The good news for Texas and Oklahoma State is that they have a 1-2 talent punch that is difficult to match. The interesting part will be to see how far they can take it.